Guide for buying your first leopard gecko

So, you’ve decided that buying a leopard gecko is the right thing for you – congratulations as they are a fantastic pet. Not only are they relatively easy to care for, but they are friendly, funny and fascinating!

Hopefully you have already done your research on handling and taming, housing and setup and feeding, and have read my post on Things to consider before getting a leopard gecko. Your next step is to find where you can buy a leopard gecko, and understand what to look out for when choosing a healthy* leopard gecko.

*If you are looking to “rescue” an unhealthy, neglected leopard gecko, this isn’t the right post for you. This post is intended for new owners. I am not discouraging people from taking in unhealthy geckos to nurse back to health, however if you are a beginner to owning reptiles; taking on a gecko which is unhealthy may be too much of a challenge, even if it is heartbreaking to see one in poor conditions.


Before you buy:

img_5087

Make sure you already have their set up complete before you buy the gecko. This can take a while, and ideally you want to put your gecko straight into their perfect enclosure.

See the following posts on housing and setup to see what to buy for their setup:


Where to buy: 

  • Pet stores: chain pet stores will sometimes sell reptiles, but it’s probably better to go to a specialist reptile shop
  • Local breeders
  • Online: Search for people in your area selling leopard geckos on sites such as Gumtree.com – you’ll find a mixture of people breeding leopard geckos, or people selling their older unwanted leopard geckos
  • Unwanted geckos: Websites such as PreLoved have categories where people can sell their unwanted pets. Unfortunately there are lots of people selling leopard geckos, s they live for a long time and are quite a long term commitment

How to choose a healthy leopard gecko:

img_2609
Before and after photos of a severely malnourished leopard gecko who has been nursed back to health. In the top photos, he is shockingly thin (weighing only 2g!), has misshapen limbs from MBD and has a build up of stuck shed around his feet, which can eventually lead to toe/foot loss. Credit: @scalyheartsrescue Instagram
  • Healthy leopard geckos should have a plump belly and a thick, fleshy tail (which is where they store fat). An unhealthy or malnourished leopard gecko will have a thin looking tail and body.
  • An overweight gecko will have a belly so large that it touches the floor when the gecko walks. If the gecko is overweight, try to find out what it has been fed on. A leopard gecko which is addicted to waxworms will be unlikely to want to eat any other insects.
  • Leopard geckos can develop an illness called metabolic bone disease if they are malnourished or on the wrong diet. Signs of this are limbs which are bent, out of shape, and cannot properly support the gecko.
  • Check that their eyes are clear, and that their skin is smooth with no abrasions or cuts.
  • Try to get proof that the leopard gecko is eating, pooping and shedding as expected. A baby (up to about 8 months old) should be shedding around every 2 weeks, and eating/pooping daily. An adult should be shedding around once per month, and eating 2-3 times a week, with regular pooping a couple of times per week.

    leopard gecko stuck shed
    A healthy leopard gecko mid-shed. Stuck shed is easy to take off, but make sure there isn’t a huge build up around the face, toes or tail, as this may be a challenge for a novice owner to remove
  • Check that they are shedding properly by looking closely at their fingers, around their eyes/nose, and around their tail to make sure there is no shed stuck. Shed will get stuck from time to time, but a healthy gecko shouldn’t have shed, or a thick build up of shed, in any parts of its body. If it does have stuck shed, and you still want to buy this gecko, you may have a challenge to remove the shed. Please see my post on shedding for more information.
  • Their poop should be mainly firm, brown and relatively untextured, with a smaller white bit called urate (a salt derived from uric acid). Leopard geckos do not urinate, but their poop will be quite damp when it is recently excreted.
  • See which substrate they are being kept on… if they are kept on loose substrate, there is a risk that they could be (or become) impacted.
    See: Does sand/ loose substrate cause impaction in leopard geckos?
  • Finally, your leopard gecko should be over 6 weeks old before being sold to you. Try to find out when they hatched before purchasing!

 


Summary:

From what I’ve seen, big chain pet stores tend to keep their geckos in worse conditions than specialist breeders do, so do your research before buying.

img_1096Also, make sure you understand as much as you can before even entering a pet store. Unfortunately, they will try to sell you things you don’t need because they want you to keep purchasing and repurchasing from them, even though it may be harmful to your leopard gecko. Two perfect examples of this are overhead heating/ lights (see: A beginner’s guide to leopard gecko housing and setup) and sand substrate (see: Does sand/ loose substrate cause impaction in leopard geckos?) which is actually REALLY dangerous for leopard geckos.

I really hope this helps, please take a browse of all my other posts, I have tried to cover as much as I can 🙂

Related Posts:

 

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2 comments

  1. I like that you include traits that describe an unhealthy gecko, and advise buying a healthy one. My 17 year old is wanting a leopard gecko, and I want to make sure he will be able to take care of it easily. He has school and work, so hopefully he will be able to give it the attention it needs.

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    1. Thanks so much for the feedback! They’re a fantastic pet, but proper research needs to happen first to make sure it has a safe home. I find them quite a low maintenance pet, so I’m sure he’ll be able to fit it in around school work. However, they do live for 8-15 years usually, so you may want to question what he will do with the gecko when he wants to leave home. Will you be stuck with it? Just a thought 🙂

      Like

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